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SURYA KANT v. BRAHMSHAKTI SANJIVANI HOSPITAL (NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION, REVISION PETITION NO. 1776 OF 2017)
ORDER DATED: 13.11.2018
All advertisements made by hospitals/doctors need to carry complete details and cannot be arbitrary. The courts do not take such instances lightly, and this case is an excellent example of the fact.
Surya Kant had chest pain and approached Brahmashakti Sanjivani Hospital where an ECG was performed that revealed myocardial infarction. The doctors at the hospital performed angioplasty and a medicated stent was implanted. The surgery was uneventful and the patient was discharged within a few days. However, troubles began when the hospital provided the bill. And the issues were with billing only, not with treatment.
The dispute reached National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi where the patient alleged that the hospital charged Rs. 2,30,000 for angioplasty and cost for the stent whereas as per their advertisement published in a local newspaper, the cost of procedure and stent was Rs. 1,25,000. The hospital not only published wrong information in their advertisement but also charged an excess amount of Rs. 1,25,000, alleged the patient.
DEFENSE OF THE HOSPITAL:
The hospital in defense stated that the offer of angioplasty with medicated stent was for those patients who made payment of Rs. 1,25,000 in cash. Moreover, since the patient’s wife gave consent for Yukon Elite – the best quality of stent which has a lifetime guarantee, an extra amount of Rs. 1,05,000 was charged.
The Commission seemed to be aghast at the hospital’s defence. At the outset, it was observed that the consent taken from patient’s wife was in emergency conditions and in forced duress. It did not support the hospital’s case, but, on the contrary, reflected on its highhandedness and arbitrary imposition of its conditions and additional costs after the patient with a cardiac problem in emergency conditions was totally in the hands of the hospital and it’s treating doctors.
Making this scathing observation, the Commission stated the following:
“The advertisement did not carry any detail whether it was applicable for routine patients or emergency patients or whether benefit was only for the cash payment customers. In our view Yukon Elite stent was also a medicated stent. If we go by the plain words of the advertisement, any common / prudent person will be misled by such advertisement. As per the advertisement, it is clear that medicated stent will be used during the angioplasty. In our view, the hospital had intentionally concealed the material information in the advertisement to avail the benefits of scheme. It is quite surprising that the scheme was applicable for the routine or planned patients undergoing angiography / angioplasty. No one will approach the hospital as a routine investigation for angiography and opt for the procedure of angioplasty. But, commonly most of the cases approach the hospital in emergency cardiac problems and after investigations the decision of angioplasty ought to be taken. The hospital’s contention that the scheme was not applicable for emergency patients is baseless and has no ground.
We have perused the bill details which clearly reveal that the cost of stent was Rs. 1,12,000 and the cost of procedure was Rs. 1,15,000/- whereas as per the advertisement the cost of angioplasty was Rs. 1,25,000 meaning thereby the cost of stent would be only Rs. 10,000. It clearly transpires that the hospital routinely used stent costing Rs. 10,000 whereas Yukon Elite stent which they have implanted was for Rs. 1,12,000, meaning thereby Rs. 1,02,000 was charged in excess. There should be logic or some justification for such huge difference of charges between two stents. It is just exploitation of innocent patients having cardiac problems. In our considered view, this is a clear case of unfair trade practice.
Moreover, all applicable salient terms and conditions, and including those relating to quality of the medicated stent and excluded categories were required to and should have been stated upfront in the advertisement, which was not done by the hospital. These acts and conduct were unfair and deceptive, an unfair trade practice”. The hospital was ordered to refund the excess amount and was also fined for the unfair trade practice.